Jacqueline Lawton: How long have you lived and worked as a playwright in DC? What brought you here? Why have you stayed?
Mary Resing: I wrote my very first play, Bar Stories, while working as a lifeguard at the Watergate (no one ever came to the pool). I’m a native. I’ve lived in all four quadrants of DC. I like it here.
JL: Have you ever been a member of a DC area playwrights writing group? If so, did you find it useful? Would you recommend that other playwrights join them?
MR: Although I have never been a member of a formal playingwriting group, for years Jacqueline Lawton and I would take turns dramaturging each other's work. We are both formally trained as dramaturgs. I dramaturged her Blood Bound and Tongue Tied, A Delicate Balance and The Devil's Sweet Water. She dramaturged my Hansel and Gretel Eat Crabs, Petri Dish Circus and Visible Language. It was wonderful to get detailed feedback from a dramaturg who is also a playwright. I'm obsessed with structure and style and she is in love with narrative and character, so we really liked to hear what the other had to say. Her input definitely improved my work. I also co-author plays with other writers.
JL: In DC, we have the Capital Fringe Festival, the Intersections Festival, the Source Theatre Festival, the Kennedy Center's Page-to-Stage Festival, the Black Theater Festival, and the Hip Hop Theatre Festival. We also have the Mead Lab at Flashpoint Theater Lab Program. Have you participated in any of these? If so, can you speak about your experience?
MR: I worked with the Source Theatre Festival for 11 years as a writer (Transitional Neighborhood; From the Tube to the Boob, etc.), director (Life’s a Beach; Jenny, a Lady; New Times; Full Title Boogie) and organizer. The festival is a crazy, wonderful thing and was a true artistic home for me. This year, Active Cultures will participate in the Intersections Festival with .govaculture, an hour of one minute plays about working for the federal government.
JL: What kind of work do you do to pay the bills? How do you balance this work with your writing?
MR: I run a theatre company, Active Cultures, the vernacular theatre of Maryland. In the past I have worked in marketing, fundraising, research and development and project management.
JL: How many plays have you had produced in the DC area? Were any of these plays self-produced? If so, where and what did you learn from that experience?
MR: I’ve written thirteen plays. Twelve have been produced by theatre companies here in DC. I’ve directed five of them. I greatly prefer it when a theatre produces my work and someone else directs it. Theatre is a collaborative form and my work requires critical mass. As a writer, I feel that my best ideas are already in the script. I don’t have much left over for directing and producing.
JL: If you could be produced at any theatre in DC, which would it be and why?
MR: I prefer productions at Active Cultures. It has a strong mission, reaches a diverse, multi-generational audience, and draws fantastic artists.
JL: DC audiences are ...
MR: Unlike audiences anywhere else in the world.
JL: DC actors, designers and directors are ..
MR: Driven, scrappy, visionary and politically savvy.
JL: DC critics are ...
MR: Just like the rest of us.
JL: How do you feel the DC theatre community has addressed the issues of race and gender parity ? How has this particular issue impacted you and your ability to get your work produced on the main stages?
MR: As a writer, I am interested in power dynamics both on and off stage. I’m fascinated by the intersections of race, gender, class, education, age and political agenda. And, obviously, all of these things come in to play when a theatre picks a season.
One thing I have noticed, although I have not personally experienced it, is that DC Theatre is quite Agist. Many theatres decide to allocate a disproportionate share of programming, funding, and artistic opportunities to artists under 30. This is particularly true of opportunities for actors and directors.
JL: What advice do you have for an up and coming DC based playwright or a playwright who has just moved to D.C.?
MR: Volunteer to help out at a small theatre company. Blog for the Washington City Paper about the DC Fringe Festival. Get to know some local artists. Find some kindred spirits. But don’t limit yourself to the theatre world. Get to know some Hill staffers, join an Ultimate Frisbee team, learn to hand dance, renovate houses as part of Christmas in April. Live an interesting life so you have something to write about. And make friends. Create an audience for your work.
JL: What's next for you as a playwright? Where can we keep up with your work?
MR: My play Faceless will be performed in October 2012. It is one of a trilogy of ghost stories being produced under the title HellSpawn II: Black Aggie Speaks. You can read about it at: hellspawnii.wordpress.com
I'm a playwright, dramaturg, and teaching artist. It is here where you'll find my queries and musings on life, theater and the world. My posts advocate for diversity, inclusion, and equity in the American Theatre and updates on my own work. Please enjoy!